Joplin survivor builds new life, love in East Tenn.

10News reporter Jennifer Meckles shows us a woman's journey from the top of the missing person's list after the Joplin tornado -- to a new life in East Tennessee. 6-3-14

This spring marked three years since a tornado ripped through the small town of Joplin, Missouri and killed more than a hundred people. Many who did survive could not connect with family for days, and ended up on the "missing list."

Sally Adams was at the very top.

"They had tornado warnings out; I really wasn't worried about it until all of a sudden it started getting dark," the now 78-year-old woman remembers.

The lifelong Joplin resident went to the basement like she always did during storm warnings, and took her elderly neighbor, Miss Hunt, downstairs with her.

The impact of the EF-5 tornado sent glass from her windows flying through the air, and most of her walls tumbling down.

But she and Miss Hunt survived.

"My home was gone, my car was gone, I had no family there and you could not find a place to live there; you couldn't even find a motel room," she said.

She didn't realize until an Associated Press photographer told her several days later, some of her family was still looking for her.

"He said, 'Did you know you were number one on the missing persons list?' Because my name was Adams at that time. I said, 'Well, I'm not. I'm here!'"

The next challenge would be rebuilding her life, not an easy task for a woman in her 70s. Her journey would eventually take her to Tennessee, and a long-lost love.

In the late 1950s, Sally married Paul Palmer.

"We [were] dance partners, we danced up a storm, we were the best on the floor," he now remembers. "We could really jitterbug then."

Life, and a divorce, eventually led the couple in different directions. Paul moved to East Tennessee, while Sally remained in Joplin and eventually remarried.

Decades later and widowed, she found some old pictures and dropped them in the mail.

"Oh it was quite a surprise," Palmer said. "It was very good to hear her voice and see the pictures and bring back a lot of the memories of years ago. I enjoyed it so much so I thought, I'll call her and see how she is and see how things are going."

One call turned into two, two into three, and soon enough they were chatting by phone regularly.

When the tornado hit, she called him immediately.

"And the first thing I hear is, 'My house is gone,'" Palmer remembers. "I never had such a helpless feeling in my life that I could not help. And it was very devastating to hear that, that I could do nothing about it."

Soon enough, he found a way to help -- by offering to help her move to East Tennessee.

"It blew me down here!" Adams said about the tornado, with a laugh.

"I just made a country girl out of her," added Palmer. "She's adapted well."

They both quickly adapted, and their bond became stronger. Soon after, they celebrated remarriage.

Sally Adams became Sally Palmer again.

"I believe it's good for both of us because we need each other," Paul said. "We're not getting any younger, we're staying younger!"

The couple now lives in Jefferson County. He still works full time in Sevier County, and she helps at pet grooming businesses on the weekends. Both credit their faith for safety through the storm.


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